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10 more final girls we love

One volume of great final girls notwithstanding, here’s a second round of lovable, ass-kicking, shy, shrewd, girl-scoutery. Naturally, as few sequels match the original, these girls maybe aren’t QUITE as awesome as those from last time, but they deserve our love and clingy “be my friend”-ness…

Jannicke (Ingrid Bolso Berdal)

Cold Prey (2006)

All-round lead character Jannicke (pro: Yaneka) is pegged as the final girl in the landmark Norwegian slasher from the moment she appears. Smart, wise, democratic, and strong when it really counts, Jannicke slips on the shoes of a real heroine with ease when her group of friends and she find themselves hunted down by a hulking mountain man in an abandoned ski lodge.

Good decision making properties and a gutsy final battle with the killer make Jannicke a vital person to have around. In the sequel she does the same but gets angry with it.

Marti (Dame Linda of Blair)

Hell Night (1981)

Having survived being possessed by the devil himself, you’d think Linda Blair would know not to partake in ill-conceived frat pranks that involve spending the night in the world’s creepiest manor house. Where people were murdered. And the killer still hangs out.

Mechanic, liberal, loyal, and feisty, Marti hot-wires an escape vehicle and you can literally SEE her change from fleeing victim to power-wielding supervixen when she spies the spiked gates that she’ll use to rid herself of the annoying killer on her roof.

Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris)

Halloween 4-5 (1988-89)

Poor little Jamie Lloyd’s mom (Laurie Strode!) escaped the clutches of Michael Myers about 83 times on Halloween night, 1978. Then died in a car crash (or did she?). Daughter Jamie is adopted by the Carruthers family and a decade after THAT night, Uncle Mikey comes back for the remainder of the bloodline. Then he does it again the following year. And six years after that.

Nine-year-old Jamie really becomes the final girl in Halloween 5 where there’s no big sister left to help her. It seems like the little girl screams, cries, and runs for an eternity but she continues to survive, much like her homicidal uncle, until cruelly offed in Halloween 6 (though by that time J.C. Brandy had taken over the role).

Pam (Melanie Kinnaman)

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

Although the world is largely in agreement that Friday 5 is redundant of quality, one of the many joyful elements going for it is spunky heroine Pam Roberts, resident psychologist at the Pinehurst Institute of Mental Health. Or: home for crazy teenagers. In the middle of the woods.

Just as little Jamie Lloyd is ten years younger than most of her sisters, Pam is older than your average final girl. Having spent a majority of the film trying to find troubled teen and mortal enemy of Jason Voorhees, Tommy, she then returns to the nuthouse and finds that a hockey-masked loon will do anything to slice her up.

Mucho running and screaming through rain-soaked trees later, Pam fights back with a chainsaw until she, Tommy, and that kid from Diff’rent Strokes manage to do away with “Jason”.

Jessie (Eliza Duskhu)

Wrong Turn (2003)

Here’s an odd one: Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, appeared in a couple of the big 90s slasher films as a victim, quite possibly wanting to play anything but righteous, ass-kicking uber-final girl for a change. In Wrong Turn, vampire slayer-gone-bad Dushku took on the role as love-robbed camper-in-peril when her quartet of BFF’s are chopped up for dinner by a trio of cannibals.

Curiously, Dushku doesn’t get that much to do as a final girl, having to be saved by Desmond Harrington’s take-charge doctor, though she does get to go all primal and shrieky with an axe once she’s free to do so. Nevertheless, her extraneous casting makes for an interesting heroine, even if we all know that, as Faith, she could’ve laid those loons to waste in a couple of kicks.

Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis)

Terror Train (1980)

Jamie Lee’s third round as final girl came in Roger Spottiswoode’s rather lush and mature killer-on-a-choo-choo film, in which a graduating class of med students are terrorised by a mask-switching maniac who is still peeved about a joke that went wrong three years previously.

Alana has a wholesome moral center and is more gutsy than Laurie Strode and more involved than Kim Hammond (her Prom Night character). After running for a bit, Alana uses whatever she can find to strike back at the hell bent killer but, as in her other films, she is ultimately saved by the intervention of an older male authority figure, which robs her of some of the glory a bit. But she’s still awesome.

Kristen (Patricia Arquette)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Nobody will ever replace Nancy as the ultimate Krueger final girl, but Patsy Arquette’s “suicidal” rich kid probably comes closest. (Some will vouch for Lisa Wilcox in films 4 and 5 but I never really liked her).

As the pivotal ‘Dream Warrior’, Kristen has the power to pull other people in her dreams, thus she and her fellow inmates can fight off Freddy Krueger together. But this pales in comparison to Kristen’s best bit, after eeeeevil Dr Simms fires Nancy, she flips out: “You can’t take Nancy, she’s all we have! You stupid bitch! You’re killing us!”

Clear (Ali Larter)

Final Destination (2000)

Originally, James Wong wanted Kirsten Dunst to play the role of Clear Rivers in Final Destination. In the DVD commentary he says that “Ali Larter is… is OK.” Bet she loved hearing that.

Nevertheless, Larter goes for the jugular as the only one who exits the doomed Flight 180 to believe Devon Sawa’s rantings that the plane will explode. She keeps this to herself for a while, later confessing that she could ‘feel’ his premonition without necessarily sharing it. After that, she becomes a Fuck Death ambassador, opening up and, in the sequel, coaching a new group of escapees how to cheat their imminent deaths. She helps, I guess, but most of them die anyway and so does she.

Cass (Tamara Stafford)

The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1983)

If Clear’s ability to ‘feel’ a premonition weren’t enough, Cass is a full blown psychic. AND she’s blind!

Wes Craven’s mucho-hated sequel to his own 1977 siege flick is a sell-out slasher movie with a decent cast, a Harry Manfredini score, and a dog capable of having a flashback.

Cass emerges as the obvious final girl, tottering around blind, feeling her friends’ dead faces and still conquering the hulking mutant who’s after her. Stafford’s career was too short-lived to be able to discern whether or not she is, in fact, blind. But she’s a cool, likable heroine at the center of it regardless.

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Valerie, Trish, and Courtney (Robin Stille, Michele Michaels, and Jennifer Meyer)

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Threesome! Feminist writer Rita Mae Brown originally conceived The Slumber Party Massacre as a comic reaction to the veritable tidal wave of neo-misogynistic low-rent slasher films emerging in 1981 and 82. The studio execs changed much of the script but both the laughs and the girl power are still very much present.

Once the killer with his phallic weapon of choice – an enormous power drill – has done away with much of the girls’ basketball team and some boyfriends, girl-next-door Valerie comes to the rescue, attacking him with a machete and chasing him down. When he fights back, host Trish and Val’s little sister Courtney join forces and go for him.

In what’s a rather dumb (but fun) movie, the end scene actually musters some real gusto and “go on girl!”-type audience participation. It’s EXCELLENT when they all set upon him. One of the few pre-90s movies where there is more than one female survivor.

Shitty Sequels III: Cash Cows Forever

Take me down to the sequel city where the grass is green but the films are shitty…

…and I keep watching them like a dick.

Previously – here and here to be specific – we looked at an array of cruddy slasher movie follow-ups over the years. There will always be sequels and some sequels will always be shitty. Hence, round three…

Ripper 2: Letters from Within (2004)

The original Ripper movie in 2001 was divisive enough but I liked it quite a bit. Sure, it’s as flawed as any other collegiate body count film of its era you care to dip-check, but when compared to this truly dreadful sequel, it’s practically Halloween.

Retconning much of the foundations laid by the first one – a lot of which was never fully resolved anyway – carry-over character Molly (now played by Eric Karpluk) is packed off to a European castle for some deep dream therapy and some cloaked-hulk is somehow awakened by these experiments and offs her fellow nubile residents.

Whether this character is supposed to be some incarnation of Jack the Ripper is another question for the blackboard and the only certainty in the whole project is that the film sucks.

A friend of mine auditioned for a small role (one which I could never identify in the finished product) and, to date, it doesn’t seem to have reached distribution in the UK almost a decade after it was made.

Jason X (2001)

I, for one, don’t actually mind this deca-sequel, but it’s clearly crap.

Produced somewhere between 1999 and its long-delayed release, the idea of ‘Jason in space’ might have seemed funny but once it finally got out there, it was clear nobody got the joke and it’s the only film in the whole Friday the 13th canon to have not even broken even at the US box office.

A combination of timing and content is to blame (what else is there?): Scream and the cycle of big-studio slasher films was already over and out by the time the release date for JX crawled around (I remember Valentine and D-Tox (another delayed one) were released earlier in the year to negative reviews) people were sick of slasher movies all over again and poor ol’ Jay barely got a look in.

Otherwise, the film is neither funny enough nor scary enough, seemingly a recurrent theme in writer Todd Farmer’s horror scripts.

Thankfully, he would get another shot two years later battling Freddy Krueger, a film where, in box office terms, they got most things right.

Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (2001)

No, not a sequel to that schmaltzy Michael Keaton snowman comedy, but to a B-movie of the same name featuring a serial killer who, after getting into an accident with a truck carrying various chemicals, becomes a murderous snowman and takes revenge on the small town where he was captured.

Full of goofy dialogue and sub-Chucky one-liners, the film is amusing enough on a make-fun-if-it level (tagline: “He’s chillin’ and killin'”). This follow up, however, is the as much fun as a sudden attack of diarrhoea in a traffic jam.

Relocating to a tropical island (!?), the titular snowman follows returning actor Chris Allport (also seen in Savage Weekend way back in ’76) and wife on holiday to kill various schmucks. A Tremors sequel-like life cycle element sees small fluffy balls representing baby-Jack Frosts highlights how cheap and rubbish things have become. Ideas about a possible Jack Frost 3 have, thankfully, melted away.

Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1992)

I really like Maniac Cop. Tom Atkins! Bruce Campbell is a straight role! Fast paced and high body counted – it’s a great little 80s flick. Maniac Cop 2 carried over the surviving characters and was entertaining enough. The third film though… shoulda been called Bride of Maniac Cop.

Big-faced Robert Z’Dar respectably returns to the role of undead zombie cop Matt Cordell once more after some religious nut resurrects him for no apparent reason. He falls in love with a devoted girl-cop, who has been set up by the media as a Cordell-like super villain. His resolve? To kill! kill! kill! them all!

While more in the slasher mold than MC2, this is one of those explicit cash-in productions that exists for almost no reason. But it’s still better than Jack Frost 2. And Ripper 2.

AND ANOTHER SHITTY SEQUEL I LOVE:

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

I’m sorry. Really, I am. What can I say? I enjoy it.

Killing Jamie Lee Curtis aside. Busta Rhymes inept acting aside. Tyra Banks thankless and wasted cameo aside. Most ridiculous un-doing of previous movie’s finale ever seen on film aside. I still enjoy Resurrection.

In the ‘for’ column – slim-pickings though they are – there’s a good cast outside of Rhymes. Katee Sachoff in a pre-Battlestar Gallactica appearance; the adorable Sean Patrick Thomas; American Pie player Thomas Ian Nicholas; Alicia Witt-lite Daisy McCrackin from cruddy DVD flick A Crack in the Floor.

The zeitgeist reality TV plot prevents the film from aging well and if that could’ve been removed as an obstacle this might have worked better as an earlier sequel, say between number six and H20. There was internet chatter about what was going to be Halloween 9 (before mainstay Moustapha Akkad was killed in a terrorist attack) might include the revelation that final girl Sara (Bianca Kajlich – what happened to her?) turning out to be Jamie Lloyd! Could’ve been a good way of undoing some of the hurt H20 caused when it pretended the interim films never happened.

All in all, it sucks as a Halloween film, but it’s an enjoyable, well made slasher movie beyond that.

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Yet more almost but not-quite slasher flicks

Another selection of horror movies that have a bodycount, a loon, and a barrier that stops them being classed as (by me, at least) as slasher flicks.

See the previous lists here and here.

THE WOMAN 2011

Lucky McKee’s sort-of follow up to the film Offspring is a harrowingly brilliant tale of a feral woman captured by a sociopathic family man who tells his oppressed wife (the ever reliable Angela Bettis) and family that the plan is to civilise her. As we learn that the patriarch of the family is a twisted prick who rapes his teenage daughter and doesn’t mind the beginnings of sexually depravity in his son, The Woman, understandably unhappy with being strapped up in a root cellar, is unleashed by said teen daughter to reap a cannibalistically bloody revenge.

Why it’s not really a slasher flick There may be a ‘massacre’ of sorts (three victims), but The Woman is anything but a slasher flick. The accent being on the monsters in plain sight rather than a forest-dwelling neo-zombie. But see it regardless, it’s truly awesome.

ALIEN 1979

Somebody once posited on a message board that “Alien is a standard slasher”. And there were later reviews that dubbed it “Halloween in space”. Whichever way you cut it, Alien is an undisputed masterpiece of modern cinema. When I first saw it as a nipper in the 90s, I couldn’t believe it had been made in the 70s. Long and slow but totally worth the wait for the horror to begin but the characterisations are, like The Woman, well beyond the usual kill-fest. Although we all remember Sigourney Weaver for her pioneering role as uber-heroine Ripley, her six co-stars are equally drawn out as validated and believable people.

Why it’s not really a slasher flick Put simply, the ‘killer’ here is working on instinct, not motive. Otherwise, Jaws and every other creature feature that have a series of attacks would be classed as slasher films.

THE ROCKVILLE SLAYER 2007

Although I only watched this movie about three weeks ago, I’ll be damned if I can remember it. Things definitely began in the usual way with a quartet of parked-up teenagers gettin’ down n’ dirty are attacked by a knife-wielding maniac. Boo-hoo, cries the town. A female detective comes along. Joe Estevez doesn’t go overboard for once. An escaped mental patient who everyone blames for everything. Big-faced Maniac Cop Robert Z’Dar loiters. And the end didn’t make sense but as I hadn’t been paying much attention I can’t really lay the blame at the film’s feet for that.

Why it’s not really a slasher flick The first ten minutes are the stuff every post-Friday the 13th movie is made of, but after that it becomes a really, really boring character study with some mystery stirred in and left to simmer. A watched pot never boils and this film never ignites.

SERIAL KILLING 101 2002

Disenchanted but charismatic high-schooler Justin Urich (curiously also seen in Horror 101) turns in a school report that states he intends to graduate and become a serial killer. Teacher freaks. No one else cares. Except Lisa Loeb. Remember her of 90s international hit Stay (I Missed You)? She agrees to help him prep if he’ll make her his first victim. Meanwhile, a bitchy classmate of theirs is murdered FOR REALZ!!!11!!1! The duo profile the killer, solve it, save the day, fall in love, and Urich decides to be an FBI profiler instead.

Why it’s not really a slasher flick There’s only one murder as I recall and, as the title suggests, it’s committed by a serial killer rather than a loon who offs a string of teens all at once.

THE ZERO BOYS 1986

Bear with me, I saw this yeeeeeears ago. A trio of survivalist types and their girlfriends go into the woods for a weekend and disturb a gaggle of looney toon backwoods types. They might’ve been drug-addled. I can’t recall. Nominal heroine Kelli Maroney had Kiefer Sutherland/Lost Boys-esque hair and Nicole Rio from Sorority House Massacre is in it. The third girl had a cast on her leg, which made hobbling away from any advancing maniacs amusing.

Why it’s not really a slasher flick Of the main characters, only one of them bites it. I think a few other schmucks bought it earlier on but this was more like the dull parts of The Final Terror mixed with sub-A-Team improvised-trap bravado. See it for the hair.

Deadheads: The hairstyles from hell

The 80s is often referred to as the decade that fashion forgot: shoulder pads, power dressing, mullets, and volume. Volume, volume, volume.

Thus, a celebration of some of the most disastrous hair-don’ts to grace the slasher screen over time…

“The UFO Landing”, sported by Tiger in The Burning (1981).

Bless her, a few frames after this still, she tokes on a cigarette, the little rebel. Despite this sub-dreadfdul hairstyle, Tiger doesn’t feel the shears that the film’s killer depletes the ranks of her fellow summer campers and survives to consider new looks.

“The Shoestring Bowl Cut”, modelled by Duncan in Slumber Party Massacre III (1990)

Looking like a cross between every second kindergarten child and H from Steps, it’s no surprise that Duncan’s character is written as a sort of immature man-child whose gags ultimately rile the killer into granting all wishes and whacking him out of the frame. But let’s be honest, most of us had this hairstyle at some point in our formative years.

“The Sideways Shove,” as seen here on Nancy in Unhinged (1982)

A reminder of early 80s styling as seen in the likes of Fame, Nancy obviously only has one good ear and must shove the tremendous weight of her hair over to the other side so she can hear the demented misandric prattling of Edith Penrose.

“The Haven’t-Slept-in-Weeks”, by Nancy from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

From one Nancy to another, THE Nancy herself, Ms Thompson, whose lack of sleep for days on end manifests itself in massive, dried out hair that even Freddy Krueger’s razor-glove couldn’t penetrate. Unknowingly, Nancy has grown her own defence against the killer’s weapon.

“Bubble Up”, with Jess in Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

Based on evidence from slasher movies, 1987 appears to have suffered the worst in terms of horrible fashion choices. As well as horrible script, editing, and production quality choices. Suicidal high schooler Jess must spend an inordinate amount of time with a hairdryer every morning to pump in that volume. At least in her death, her parents would’ve saved some money on the leccy bill.

sc-hair-from-hell-2“Mullets, side-platts, and everyones aunt”, from Sleepaway Camp II (1988)

A sort-of Greatest Hits of bad hair, Sleepaway Camp II features an eye-melting array of bad-barnets, all of which transsexual puritan Angela revels in stabbing, slashing, garroting, and throwing acid in the face of. Relatively normal hair is what saves cute final girl Molly in the end. Even though she might’ve actually died, it wasn’t any fault of her do.

“The Wilson Phillips girl-bowl”, modelled by Angela in Children of the Corn II (1992)

Ooh, a 90s hair-crime! Under-represented character Angela (genre regular Rosalind Allen) has a thankless role as love-interest and woman-in-danger for the nominal hero, but I was waiting for her to break into a chorus of Hold On. Someday somebody’s gonna turn around and ruin your hair.

“Soul Glo”, by Demon in Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

When funny kid Reggie (Shavar Ross from Diff’rent Strokes) asks if he can go see his brother halfway through Friday 5, nothing will prepare a fresh viewer for the style crimes that open the back doors of a van. It’s like a Michael Jackson home-perm kit that went tragically wrong, meshed with jewellry, leather and spandex. And Demon’s Janet-lite girlfriend is also a sight!

“The Bangles Reject”, from Maria in Slumber Party Massacre III (1990)

As if Duncan and his bowl-cut wasn’t enough, here’s Maria with her high-piled all-girl rock band look: long, silky hair that somehow almost reaches as high above her head as it falls below her chin. It’s probably the least offensive of the do’s on show here, but, Christ is it dated! Still, Maria was one of my favourite characters.

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Nevertheless, none of these hair styles or films they come from can hold a candle to the biggest crimes-against-hair horror film of them all – from 1987, no less! – The Lost Boys:

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Slashademics

Tell most people you’re “into” slasher movies and they’ll give you this strange sideways look, like they’re doubting the authenticity of the complexities going on inside your cranium.

Pick up any academic film book and you’ll likely only find half a paragraph about slasher movies, writing them off as something like ‘hate-women films’ or the like.

Nevertheless, beyond the Teenage Wasteland’s, Legacy of Blood’s, and Going to Pieces’s’s’s, there has been a fair bit of scholarly study done over the years, much of it in research papers, but also a few books.

Therefore, if you’re looking to broaden your appreciation of the subtextual elements of the teenie-kill pics you so enjoy, maybe give any of these a go…

GAMES OF TERROR: HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH AND THE FILMS OF THE STALKER CYCLE

By Vera Dika (1990)

Way back in the mid-90s before DVD and before my parents stopped thinking the internet was evil sent by Satan, the only existing book about exclusively about slasher films was this.

After I’d devoured as much Friday the 13th and Halloween I could and still found myself hungry, Games of Terror introduced to be to six other early stalker films (as she calls them), which took a good six months for me to track down. This being a good decade before everything was reissued on DVD – only a few of these films were readily available on video cassette.

Rather than analyse psychological elements of the films themselves (see Clover, below, for that), Dika pivots her tome on the structural nature of the sub-genre; the ‘games of terror’ refers to how these films work on an interactive level, breaking down the common plot arc (from the event that prompts the killer X-years earlier to the heroine fighting and surviving), and posing the audience questions: Where is the killer? When will they strike? Who is the killer? etc.

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The holy clutch of ‘stalker films’

Of the three books, Games of Terror is the easiest to get on with. It’s not overly verbose and doesn’t preach an opinion (again, see Clover for that!) and it enabled me entrance on to my Film Theory degree, which of course, I capped off with a research paper on 90s slasher movies, called Scream Queens and Screaming Queens.

The downside of the tale is that Games of Terror is fucking hard to get hold of. Look on Amazon and gasp at the three-figure prices for which it’s being touted! I took it out from the library about five times.

Aww, libraries… like phoning around old video stores, scouring the Free-Ads and taking the bus for an hour to go and get my copy of Happy Birthday to Me for £7 from a run-down old rental store, it all takes me back!

MEN, WOMEN, AND CHAIN SAWS: GENDER IN THE MODERN HORROR FILM

By Carol J. Clover (1990)

Now this is a different kettle o’ fish altogether. Less an entire book, more a collection of essays bound together. The chapter Her Body, Himself is devoted exclusively to slasher films, which Clover begins with by stating that the killers murder a string of “mostly female victims,” and then goes on to namecheck a load of films where male victims outnumbered their gal-pals by significant margins.

Lack of objectivity aside, this is a great chapter for psycho-analysis of some of the grittier issues you sometimes find going on under the surface. Clover centres much of her research around The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (which, ironically, the next book all but excludes from being a slasher movie at all!) and posits that all killers are psychosexually motivated to stab pretty young girls over and over in a grim tableau of the regular intercourse they’re incapable of having.

It makes sense, but her research lets her down. Some facts are plain wrong, while others require a lot of convincing. Still, the parts around audience identification with the killer shifting to the allegiance of the final girl are interesting and mostly valid, but read into sometimes in too much detail, especially when it’s widely considered that the core audience for these movies is frankly too dumb to tell the difference.

The rest of the book covers various other genres of horror and cries misogyny a little too easily at some points. Yes, it’s an issue and yes, some slasher movies revel in it, but Hell Night, for example (a film she discusses), certainly isn’t one of them.

BLOOD MONEY: A HISTORY OF THE FIRST TEEN SLASHER FILM CYCLE

By Richard Nowell (2010)

I only finished reading this book last week. There’s more in common with Dika than Clover, as Nowell charts the business end of the 1978-81 mini-boom of teen slasher films (thereby excluding films that aren’t necessarily tailored for teens, i.e. He Knows You’re Alone).

Nowell’s research levels go far beyond the previous books, though that’s likely because a lot more has been written on the genre in the intervening years. Still, he doesn’t miss a trick, finally pointing out that Clover’s effort has been the only oft-quoted work on the genre, and thus many people have taken her word for gospel thereafter.

Blood Money goes to great lengths to show how the often tiny production companies tailored their films to male AND female audiences, the way trailers were cut to show female bonding and girl-enticing elements of the films (Prom Night being the best example) and, surprisingly, goes to town on pointing out that Halloween was NOT the bootleg blockbuster it’s often painted to be, that it took a long, long time to make its money (much of which came from re-releases well into the 80s) and really showing how a trend starts, peaks, and fades away when it comes to the saturation point in 1981.

The disappointing aspect of this book is that most of the films he charts (those pictured above plus Black Christmas, Silent Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Terror Train, Final Exam, The Prowler, Just Before Dawn, Madman, and The Dorm That Dripped Blood) made much less money than we’re sometimes led to believe. Yeah, they all turned a profit, but some of the amounts were a lot less impressive than their reputations would have you believe, especially in terms of modern money.

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In conclusion – read these! At least some of them. Despite my bitching about it, Carol Clover’s book is quite relevant, just a tad misinformed in place. And if you ever get in an argument with Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin, or the ghost of Gene Siskel, it’d be handy to be able to quote some of this stuff back!

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